Yesterday on social media, I read a great post by Derek Olson about why he wasn’t going to be watching any major sporting events later in the day, but instead would be in the workshop making stuff and then talking about it on social media. I did not watch the big game last night, either. I gave my reason in a response to him; thought you might want to hear it, as well.
One time I was sitting down to watch the Super Bowl with some friends of mine when my cell phone rang. I excused myself, went into the kitchen, and proceeded to talk to a girl for almost the entire game.
When I finally sat back down, there were about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. My friend turned to me and said, “That better have been one special girl.”
She’s upstairs right now, taking a nap with our son. I haven’t watched a Super Bowl in 12 years. There are just more important things to do, I guess, like talk to the girl you’re going to marry. Or talk to your wife. Of course, when she’s napping…
I’m off to the shop. Enjoy your time in yours, Derek.
And off to the shop I went. I’m working out a sticking point in my latest project, so in the mean time I decided to spend some time cleaning up the rosewood handles on a few old tools I’ve picked up over the years. I found my first one at an estate sale about three years ago for a crazy cheap price and have kept my eyes out for them ever since. I’m up to four or five of them now. With loving care, some 0000 steel wool, and a bit of Kramer’s Antique Restorer, the rosewood now sparkles with swirls of character and the tools gleam with pride, ready to get back to work.
I’ll save pictures of them for my next post. Does anyone want to hazard a guess as to what kind of tools they are in the mean time? Surely the manufacturers of yesteryear must have vastly overestimated our supply of rosewood for it to be used on such a mundane tool…
I also spent some time working on an idea I’ve had rolling around in my head for quite a few years now. It involves bird’s eye maple and one of my favorite trees; the Missouri state tree, in fact – Cornus Florida L., also known as the flowering dogwood.
While looking at a piece of bird’s eye maple one day, I had the notion that the figured eyes looked a lot like blooms on a flowering dogwood, as seen at a distance. I thought it might be interesting if I could somehow add branches to connect the flowers, maybe even bring the branches to the trunk of a tree. It would be a tremendous amount of work to do on a large scale, but… what about on a smaller scale? Like a little inlay panel on a box?
It stayed in my mind as an idea for a long time. But I finally put it down on wood. I pulled out my very inexpensive pyrography tool and started with a thin strip of figured maple I had left over from an old project…
I possibly need to look into a better pyrography tool. I also need to work on my branch shapes. More importantly, I need to emulate the branches of the dogwood a little better, especially the tertiary branches that connect to the flowers. Drawing branches without a subject is one of the tasks I remember struggling with in my Drawing II class in college, so it’s time to get out the notepad, get some appropriate pictures, and bone up on my branch drawing.
But the first attempt is promising! Next time I’ll tackle a slightly bigger area.
Something I quickly realized while doing this is that it will be necessary to find wood with a certain density of bird’s eye figure in order to get the technique to look right. I’ll have to ponder that, as well, as I scrape up a little money so I can head to one of the local lumber dealers who carries a nice amount of figured maple this next weekend.
It was time well-spent in the shop. I don’t think I missed a thing on TV.
Day two for this project is in the books. Ever have one of those days where everything was just… on? Where everything seemed to go smoothly for some reason and things just fell into place? Day two was one of those days. I treasure those days.
On the first day, I got the sides cut to size and the rebates on all four sides of the bottom. My goal for last night was to get the sliding lid fitted.
If you hadn’t noticed, I’m just using ½” poplar from the box store. I’m challenging myself here. It’s pretty easy (my opinion, of course) to take really great wood (figured maple or walnut, reclaimed bog oak, something exotic and dense) and make a box that doesn’t look too bad, even if the design is off or the construction is not clean. If you can sand moderately well and not botch the finish, people tend to focus on the wood instead of the form.
But I want to take plain wood – just something I picked up from the local home center – and make a really good box out of it. Something that draws just as much attention to it, even though it’s just plain ol’ fuzzy poplar.
I buy poplar like I buy pine from the big box stores. Go frequently, dig through the wood, occasionally walk away with a good board or two (but usually empty handed), and stick it in the shop. A few weeks ago, I lucked upon a thin poplar board that was fully quartersawn! Man, it was beautiful and straight as an arrow! I want to find more of THOSE!
It was the perfect contrast I wanted for the lid, so I pulled it out and cut it to length on the miter box and rebated the edges to make it fit the grooves in the sides. Sometimes I struggle with keeping my rebate plane cuts square, so I have to fix them with the rabbeting block plane. But I tried some hand and body position adjustments last night and it seemed to work. These rebates were MUCH better; practically square, even!
Does anyone else ever feel guilty just putting shavings like these in the shaving bin? They look so… cool! They aren’t like your average shavings. I feel like there is something I should be able to do with these wonderful curls of wood! Let me know if you’ve figured out a way to use them, yah?
After that, I used a jack plane to lower the top a bit and even it out with the sides before smoothing (it isn’t long enough to need a jointer plane). Since I don’t use it very much, I don’t mind the weight of my 604 ½ smoothing plane. It’s a beast! But, I can set it very well and I have a great amount of control over it. I don’t usually post pictures of the gossamer shavings, but like I said, I was really in the groove last night…
Now that I have the box proper all set up, I can work on fitting out the inside and maybe tighten up the miters a little. I have some interesting ideas for it that I’m excited to try out! And, if I have enough time, I might try and do a little inlay, either on the front or on the lid. I picked up a box of pure white holly scraps from Bill Rittner, left over from the holly knob and tote I bought from him, and I’ve been dying to try carving some of it up! Or maybe try something else? Not sure yet.
(Raney, hows about you make me a smoothing plane and I’ll stop with the GD references? Not a bad deal, eh?)
Lately, it seems like a large percentage of my shop time has been spent either trying to work on projects for the shop or restoring hand tools. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing these things. I love the feeling I get when I finish a workshop task and I can see that I’m inching closer towards having it finished. And I could get lost in tool restoration, if I’m not careful. Much like working with reclaimed wood, there is a big draw for me in taking an old, abused tool and cleaning it up, getting it back into proper working order so I can use it in my shop.
But I’ve spent so much time focusing on those two aspects of my woodworking that I’ve really neglected the part where I make things! So last night I thought about it for a minute and decided on a project I want to make that has an inherent deadline of about a month, which is good motivation to work on it. I went down into the shop, quickly sketched out an idea of what I wanted, pulled out the tools I need for the first few steps, and got to it!
I’m not sure I can use my Record 043 plow plane on a project without taking at least one or two pictures of it. Maybe it has to do with the almost-instant gratification I get when I’m making grooves. Here is a flat board with jointed edges. Five minutes later, here is a flat board with two perfect grooves running parallel to the long edges and a bushel of narrow, thick, curly shavings.
I got to use another one of my favourite tools shortly after that. It is my Disston 12” backsaw I got for a steal and then had Matt Cianci sharpen up for me like a sash saw. If you’ve never used a saw that was sharpened by Matt, then you need to make it a short term goal for the first quarter of 2015. It will change your views on how well a saw can function.
I don’t know if you can see just how smoothly this saw cuts; hopefully you can. It took two swipes of a block plane to clean this up. To quote Chris Schwarz, “Matt is a wizard.” Indeed he is.
I’m trying to learn how to sharpen my own saws. But I like keeping this one handy and sharpened by Matt so I have something I can use for a reference, to show me what sharp really is.
Hopefully I don’t have to try and explain how good it feels to just go into the shop with a basic plan, pick out some wood, and start working, do I? To many, that can be daunting. But guess what. Your fears about making errant cuts or botching your plane work melt away as you get lost in the action of creating.
If you’ve never done that before, you should. Tonight. Now, even. Go! It’s fine to be afraid. But then go do it anyway. That’s my new motto. That’s kilted woodworking.
I still have a hard time believing it, but it’s true. Every time I back my car into the garage, I look for it, just out of habit. I’m hoping that will fade with time, that maybe I’ll learn to look out for something else I’ve put in its place, like a cedar potting bench for my wife or… I don’t know, just the back wall?
Because I’m pretty sure I’m not going to replace my table saw.
But for now there’s just an ugly… gap at the back of my garage. Even the pegboard wall behind where it was and the shelf overhead are both less cluttered. He took all of the blades, the spare zero clearance inserts, the Incra miter gauge… he even took the guard and splitter! (OK, he didn’t take the guard the first time; it was hidden behind the drill press and he didn’t see it, so I had to drop it off for him.)
Except for the table saw, my drill press (which I just have to figure out who to
sucker convince into helping me move, because the cast iron base is hea-vy), and an 8” Wallace short bed jointer (I am also selling, if anyone is interested… local pickup only, please), all of my woodworking tools are now in the basement shop. I was tired of going up to the garage to make some cuts and then go back down to the basement to do everything else.
About a year and a half ago, I got the idea to see how long I could go without using the table saw. You might notice that’s about the time I decided to tune up my bandsaw. After a year of successfully not using the tablesaw, I started thinking about just not having it. Last month, I got a wild notion to go ahead and get rid of it. I mentioned it to my younger brother, who is a full-time woodworker in a cabinet shop, to see if he knew of anyone who might be interested in my Ridgid TS3650. As it turned out, he was still using a small bench-top tablesaw at his house, so HE was interested in buying it! Even better!
His shop was closed down the week after Christmas, so he grabbed our dad’s trailer last Monday and made his way up to my house to pick it up while I was at work. Good to his word, he even left the right amount of money on the kitchen counter! Miracles DO happen, people!
Is this the right move for you? I have no idea; it is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. My woodworking is 100% a hobby for me, though, so I have no concerns of speed or batch cutting. And I have absolutely no desire to try my hand at turning a bowl on the tablesaw.
Instead, my concerns are safety with a four year old in the shop, dust in a basement shop with no large dust collection system, not making a lot of noise when I’m working late at night, and not having to walk back and forth between garage and basement shop all the time.
Over the last year, my hand tool skills have drastically improved – especially my sawing.
I certainly have a lot more to learn and improve on, but that’s part of the fun for me. I love seeing my cuts get more accurate, my joinery more precise, my finished faces more smooth.
So far, I don’t have an ounce of seller’s remorse (and, believe me, I know what seller’s remorse is… I still miss my 1995 4-Runner, and I sold that most awesome truck in 2002). This tells me I’ve made the right decision.
I think that’s enough big changes for the year, though. Glad I got that out of the way early on!
Still… I do have a Bosch 1617EVSPK (with a lift base, even) and several dozen 1/2″ bits I haven’t used in at least two years. Hmmm…
In any case, Happy New Year, readers. Be safe. Have fun.
(Apols for the GD reference blog entry title, Raney, but technically I don’t think we came to any resolution on me not using them, did we?)
Anyone who has been following me on Instagram already knows this, but I’ve been on a hand drill restoration kick for the last week or so. Thus far, they have all been what I call “soft” restorations. That means all I’m doing is breaking them down (in most cases leaving the pinions intact), scrubbing raw metal parts (where there is no paint or chrome) with my coarse, medium, and fine Sandflex hand blocks, lightly scrubbing the painted, chromed, and finished wood parts with 0000 steel wool and Kramer’s Antique Restorer, cleaning any knurling and the teeth of the gears and pinions with my Dremel and a small wire wheel attachment, adding 3-in-1 oil to oil holes on the main shaft, and generally removing 100+ years of dirt and grease and grime.
What I’m not doing is using a wire wheel or sandblasting the gears and frames to get them down to bare metal so that I can repaint them. I’m not sanding the finish off the wood and re-staining and applying a new coat of finish. I’m not even disassembling the chucks (yet) to give them a complete overhaul. I do not want to try and make them look like brand new versions of the tool; I want them to show you the life they’ve lived thus far. But I want them to be clean. I want them to run smoothly. I want them to make holes again!
In most cases, the drills don’t NEED to be stripped down to bare metal and repainted. This is because I am very selective in the tools I buy. I don’t go to an estate sale and buy every hand tool I see that looks old. For one thing, I don’t buy tools I don’t need. I don’t buy old tools just because they are there. A, I don’t want to collect tools; I want to use tools. B, if I have good quality user tools sitting on a shelf in my basement when I don’t need them, then that means those tools can’t be in someone else’s shelf being put to good use…
Anyway, these drills don’t need to be stripped down because I tried to find drills that had much of their paint intact.
None of these soft restorations were photo-documented for me to write up a detailed blog post. My plan was to get a few cleaned up and figure out what I’m doing and then tackle my 1914 Millers Falls No2 with the intention of doing a proper write-up. It is a more desirable version of the common No2, with the elongated crank handle and the guide bearing. It is one of the very few tools I’ve lucked upon at one of the local antique malls, where I usually just fine wrenches and screwdrivers and moulding planes (without the blades, of course).
I know it might seem presumptive of me, but as soon as Finley started showing an interest in working down in the shop with me, I quietly began assembling a small set of tools for him. So not all of these hand drills are mine; I’m not a collector! But… believe it or not, I’m having a lot of fun with them. After I’ve practiced on my own, I might consider picking up a few here and there and cleaning them up to sell or give away to friends or family.
The first one I started on was Finley’s No2. It is one of the newer drills I have, being made some time after 1938. But it probably isn’t much newer than that – the guy I bought it from said his grandpa used it and then his dad used it. His love is motocross bikes and he figured he wasn’t ever going to use it, so he thought he would put it in the hands of someone who would. He was excited to hear I was going to clean it up and give it to my son to use in the workshop.
Any time I get a tool from someone who lets me have it for a good price because they know I’m not going to fix it up and sell it, I like to send them pictures of it after it has been restored. He was surprised I actually followed through with my promise to do so (who follows through on their promises anymore, right?) and was floored with how great it looked and worked once I was done. Finley was pretty excited, too.
This was the one drill where I did remove the upper pinion. It wasn’t spinning nearly as well as it should have been, so I picked up a hammer and a drift pin and removed the pin holding the handle in place. And I found I had to remove another pin to get the threaded shaft out to get to the pinion. That was all very nerve-wracking, but after I spent a moment cleaning up the pins, they slid right back into place during re-assembly once I had the pinion working. Now I feel quite confident in doing that again.
Then I worked on my Millers Falls No5. It is another “newer” hand drill (1935 or so). It had some damage to the back of the handle, but, as I said, I left it alone and just focused on making sure it worked properly.
The last one I worked on was a Millers Falls No3. I was a little confused at first when I tried to date it using the information on the Old Tool Heaven website. It had the tear drop side handle from the earliest period, but it had a newer chuck, the newest logo, and the gear was painted red. Then I realized one of the previous owners probably just lost the side handle and replaced it with something that fit. When I looked at it more closely, I realized the side handle is probably rosewood, which means it came off of an older MF No5. (If anyone out there has an older No5 that is missing the detachable rosewood teardrop-shaped side handle and has an unbearable desire to locate one to make their drill 100% original, let me know; maybe we can work something out.)
This one was a little different from the other two because I quickly realized most of the chrome was still there! So after cleaning it up with 0000 steel wool and Kramer’s, I pulled out the German metal polish and an old sock and made the old sock black with tarnish.
I took some pre-restoration pictures of the No2 I’m going to document…
Before I do that, though, I might work through one or two more I happen to have but probably won’t keep – they will either be sold or given away. Or I’ll trade up and get rid of my No5; I guess it depends on which one I like the most.
I can see how some guys get addicted to buying old tools. I’m glad I don’t quite have that problem – I seem to be addicted to cleaning old tools up so they can be put back to work. I really DO have a few woodworking projects in various stages of completion. I’ll try to bring those to focus in the near future.
There are a few tools I use almost every time I’m in the shop working on a project. One of them is my Shinwa 6″ ruler. And it isn’t just something I need now that my emphasis is on hand tools; I used it just as frequently when setting up my table saw and routers.
I picked this ruler up based on a tool comparison in one of the first issues of Woodworking Magazine. It has 1/8th” and 1/16″ graduations on one side and 1/32″ and 1/64″ graduations on the other. I’m not entirely sure how often I’ve used those last markings. It has 1/32″ graduations on the short edge, which I found useful for things like setting up table saw blade and router bit heights. The black markings are etched into the matte finished stainless steel, which makes it easy to read.
Really, the only problem I have with it is that I seem to easily misplace it, especially when I’m not wearing my shop apron. It gets buried in shavings or covered with tools or I’ll set it down somewhere and can’t find it five minutes later when I need it again.
Having two marking knives seems to help ensure I always have one handy when I need it; maybe I need to do something similar with 6″ rules. So earlier today, after another excellent meal at the Hartville Kitchen, I stopped over at Hartville Hardware to see if I could find another 6″ rule.
I think I found one that fits the bill. It is a Hartville Tool and Supply ruler that was marked as a centering rule. I could tell right away it was a quality product. For starters, the black etched markings show up very clearly on the matte finish. Just like the Shinwa, it has 1/32″ graduations on the short edges, 1/8″ and 1/16″ graduations on one side and 1/32″ graduations on the bottom half of the other side. I didn’t see how it was a center finding rule until I looked at the marks on the top half of the second side – they were metric (mm) graduations, laid out with zero in the center.
I’m not exactly sure how useful that last bit will ever be, but… you never know. In any case, Hartville Hardware was having a bag sale – 20% off anything you can fit in a (not terribly large) paper sack – so it only cost me about $9 and I figured it was worth a try. As an added bonus, it’s made in the USA!
I’ve just doubled my odds of finding my 6″ rule when I need it! Hmmm… or maybe I doubled my chances of losing it?
After my recent blog post about my grandpa, my mom and I chatted a bit about his past. She clarified some of my inaccuracies and provided me with more information on other topics. I wanted to write some of it down before I forgot it. Hopefully I’ll be able to achieve a balance here of showing you some of the cool things my grandpa did, while avoiding the cookie cutter “I got into woodworking because of my grandpa…” bit. I do understand why Popular Woodworking doesn’t want that kind of topic for its End Grain articles, but I also want to get some information written down, even if just for my own future reference.
Among the various jobs he had over his lifetime, my grandpa was a cabinet maker for several years. He built his own cabinet shop in the 1940’s. The building is long gone, the location now a parking lot at the Saint Louis University Eye Hospital. He had one employee and mom thinks he might have always used pallet wood; he always did after she was aware of what he did for a living, in any case. That resonates well with me, if you can imagine.
In addition to the things I already listed in Nostalgia, Part Deux (blocks, a kid’s sized workbench, a cutting board, and the kitchen countertop), he also made a baby bed and child-sized stove, china cabinet, and doll beds. He made a lot of the equipment he used as an artist. I’d hate to see the condition they are in, but we might have a few easels somewhere on the farm. I think they’re in the garage (you don’t know how much this scares me). Mom says they are more likely in the basement (this does nothing to alleviate my fears).
He made kitchen cabinets for at least a decade. After that, he became a layout and design commercial artist. He did lettering on advertising signs for a living. NO STENCILS! (Before I updated it, my last blog entry said they were “hand stenciled” letters on the blocks; I meant to say they were hand-painted. I knew he did them by hand, I just used the wrong word.) Mom said he stayed up late at night practicing his lettering for
months years in order to get good enough to get the advertising job.
Over the weekend, I made a trip down to the farm and got some pictures of the blocks and the workbench. My mom sent me some pictures of the cutting board, as well.
The blocks came with trays and extra boards that had themed words on them – days of the week, farm animals, fruits, that sort of thing – I’m pretty sure his intent was for them to be learning aids as well as toys.
The blocks are full-mitered hollow cubes with a shellac finish.
One has gone MIA over the years – I have no idea what happened to it, though I’m pretty certain it was not done on my watch. Apparently, there were only ever 13 blocks (something about there being 26 letters in the alphabet and using half that many blocks to make out all of the letters and numbers… at least I can confirm none were lost on my watch). Excepting one or two minor splits and a few chipped edges, they have held up remarkably well.
I know there was some pattern to the way he lettered the blocks; you can spell out my name in the green upper-case solid letters and my older brother’s name in the orange outline letters at the same time. I think there is more to it than that, even, but I’d have to study them a bit more to figure it out.
The cutting board is showing its age
, but the glue lines are still tight. Mom said that my little brother did have to re-glue part of it a few years ago. It would probably respond well to a few swipes of a hand plane and some salad bowl oil. You might note it has a finish on it at the moment – probably a polyurethane – that has almost completely worn off the top, but remains on the sides and bottom. I don’t think it hurts anything being on the bottom, but if I renew the cutting surface, I’ll not replace it with more polyurethane, for obvious reasons.
The lips on either end facilitate picking it up, but the cutting board was also sized so that these overhangs set on the rim of a standard-sized sink. He obviously put a lot of thought into everything he did.
The workbench was also made with recycled pallet boards. I don’t have any pictures of the top of it, but along the back was a series of square holes; I always assumed they were for holding chisels or screwdrivers, even when I was a kid. Oh, and for holding Star Wars figures – they did that just fine, as well. Unfortunately, it never really worked out well as an actual workbench; it’s just too light.
The base is a little wiggly now, though I suspect it was not like that originally. I think I might be able to make it more solid if I were to examine it closely with that goal in mind, though it would still be too light for a proper bench of any sort. The problem is not due to loose bolts connecting the legs, but one of design. The tall, thin legs set into a dado in the base does not create the inflexible base a workbench requires. Mom says it really was meant to be used more for an art table than an actual workbench.
Which is good, because we used the workbench as an art table, more than anything. The drawer was a great depot for art supplies and the top was a perfect area for large drawing and watercolor pads. Mom said the vice was put on the right side so we could use it for sawing. I’m not sure we used it for anything more than trying to crush old toys (don’t tell my mom that, though…).
Speaking of art… Unfortunately, some of his art equipment – wooden tables and storage devices I now realize he must have built himself – was poorly stored over the years and did not survive the challenged living environments of The Machine Shed and The Garage. As mentioned above, we might have some easels somewhere still; I plan on trying to find them when I have a few free hours.
While the equipment did not fare well, I was able to salvage a good amount of his art supplies many years ago. I wasn’t being nostalgic at the time, though, I was being cheap. I needed supplies for my design and drawing classes and I had an easy source of quality materials nearby. I have an art box with pretty much all of the supplies I didn’t use up still in my basement. I use some of them in the workshop today and have found nothing better for marking on rough and finished lumber than Koh-I-Noor 2B graphite and blue polycolor sticks.
I believe my mom has (and uses) some of his artists paint brushes still. She keeps them in a semi-free form block of Douglas Fir he made into a paint brush holder with the addition of several holes of various sizes. My plan is to duplicate it at some point in the near future.
In the mean time, I’m still digging stuff up and making notes. I know we have (had?) several drawing pads full of my grandpa’s sketches and cartoons; I’d like to try and locate them when I look for the easels and see if any of it is worth saving.
Hopefully this is slightly more interesting than a history lesson on wood?
Addendum: My mom wanted me to point out that my grandfather suffered a serious stroke when he was older, but that the kitchen counter and blocks and the child-sized kitchen appliances were all made after this event.